Robbing Your Customers

Or we’1l ca th ps!

It’s something we like to do every day!

Yep, the secret to our crazy low prices and amazing ferraris, finally revealed:

We take your billing address and go to your homes at night to steal your jewelry, plasma TVs, and all valuable toiletries!

Not to mention all the credit card numbers we get fund our wild vegas benders (roulette is a great way to launder money) and illicit basketball leagues!

(Damn PayPal and Google Checkout, not sharing the credit card info with us!)

Yeah, overall it’s a pretty sweet scheme we’ve had these past 10 years; and now that we’ve gone into hiding you’ll never catch us, coppers!

Okay Okay Okay

Although I admit what we’ve been doing has been pretty bad, it pales in comparison to what I just found out one of our favorite competitors Lunarpages just did to rob their customers.

According to this thread at Web Hosting Talk, Lunarpages a few days ago turned the default 404 pages for all sites they host (who haven’t specifically customized them already) to one of those ultra-sleazy “domain parking”-style setups. It still happening right now… and here’s an example of a 404 page on a site some poor shmoe has hosted by them, aeroeco.net!

I’m impressed! So roundabout, so complex, so sneaky! We only ever do the simple stuff like read our customers email for blackmail material, or kidnap their pets and their kids.

Maybe Lunarpages doesn’t agree, and maybe it doesn’t seem sooo bad to you, but what they’re doing is outright theft. It’s the Internet equivalent of shoplifting.

She should start a webhost!

For websites, traffic is everything. Stealing a site’s traffic is nothing less than web homicide!

You see, anybody who got a default 404 error before this change, probably just backed up to the site they were on and continued. But now, it seems probable they’ll end up clicking one of the links they see there, or possibly use the “search this site” form, which does nothing of the sort! It searches “http://searchportal.information.com/” instead and Lunarpages gets a kickback!

Of course, Go Daddy has been doing stuff like this for ages.. if you register a domain with them and don’t set anything up on it you’re going to get a lame page filled with lame affiliate links. But at least with parked domains, it’s not like there’s an actual site up that you’re injecting content into! Not to mention, they’re Go Daddy. We’d expect nothing less from them!

Go Daddy’s daddy.

And, remember the time four years ago where VeriSign tried exactly this with every non-registered domain? ICANN made them stop less than a week later, after a huge (by Internet nerd standards) public outcry.

These sorts of scams (and the entire domain parking industry) are just a server variant to good old desktop spyware that changes your default search engine or dns error pages on your browser. But just because they’re not surreptitiously installing anything on end users computers doesn’t mean it’s not crooked.

(Oh, speaking of crooked.. yesterday our cool anti-spam site spam.la stopped working, as though the domain had expired. Looking it up, it was paid through July 2008 though! Upon contacting the registry, it turns out that although we had paid Domain Discover to renew the domain in July, they had never paid the registry! Yet another creative way to rob your customers that we should try sometime!)

Crooked! Why isn't it one syllable?

Why, Lunarpages, Why?

I’m guessing it’s the money?

But come on guys, is it really worth it? How much money are we talking about?

I remember one time when this skeezy SEO guy was asking me “How many domains do you guys host?” I told him “zillions”. He said, “How many are parked?” I said, “I dunno, some fraction of a zillion?” He said: “Do you like to make money?” And I said, “I dunno, it depends…” To which he said, “Do you like to make money?” To which I said, “It depends, is the money one dollar and how much **** do I have to suck to get it?”

Okay, I didn’t really say that, but it was what I was thinking. And in a real tough, bad-ass voice too.

It’s obviously a stupid question, “Do you like to make money?” The question is, “Would you do X if I paid you $Y?

Lunarpages must be hurting pretty bad right now to sink this low. I also noticed they dropped their 1-800 number and only have a 1-714 now! Shoulda been like us, and not offered phone support in the first place, eh?!

But, I gotta give them a break. It’s easy to be all high and mighty and to “Don’t be evil” when you’re rolling in the dough like Google. But the ethics get a lot murkier when the choice is between stealing a tiny bit of traffic from your customers and selling your first born.

(Take Yahoo! for example. Back in 2000 (stock price $100) we tried to advertise with them, and they were all high and mighty about “no animation, no hard sell, no general trashiness.” Now (stock price $28), their site is covered in expanding flash ads, including some for… gasp… Lunarpages!)

HTML is hardly code.

Who are your customers?

It’s a good question!

And I don’t mean, are they small businesses, web designers, women, dwarfs, fifth graders, deaf, or asian? I mean, are your customers “People who need a website host” or are your customers “People who pay for traffic”? It seems Lunarpages is trying to get both.

But, you can’t have both. You really have to choose just one and stick with it!

It’s pretty simple in the beginning… your customers are the people (or businesses) who pay for your product (or service). But then later, as you grow, you start to realize that entire “customer base”… that “audience”… is a potential “product” in and of itself. And there are plenty of other types of “customers” who will pay handsomly for it.

Don’t fall for it!

Because your customers don’t like being a product! And, when they finally catch on that they’re PAYING to be SOLD, they’ll vamoose! And you’ll be done… stuck without customers or product!

Oh yeah, also, look at your audience when giving a presentation.

Just yesteday there was some talk of eBay pissing off its sellers by putting targeted Google ads on their listings… effectively trying to steal their customers’ customers.

This is actually an interesting case.. because who are eBay’s customers, really? Is it the sellers, who directly pay Ebay? Or is it the shoppers, who are the originators of that money the sellers then use to pay eBay?

I’d say, it’s the shoppers. Because even though auction sites are sort of a weird “chicken and the egg” problem, in actuality, it’s just an “egg” problem, and the egg is shoppers.

Because, one thing I’ve learned in this world, is that if you’ve got people trying to spend money, you’ll have no problem finding people trying to take it!

So actually, I’d say eBay is probably fine putting those ads in. If they can help the shoppers find what they’re looking for, even if it’s not through an auction on eBay itself, they’ll be satisfied and come back. The “power sellers” can go suck an egg.. if they leave there’ll be plenty of other sellers who aren’t quite as proud to fill the void.

I dunno, but new eBay sellers will!

What to do?

Well, being completely unbiased in the matter, I say vote with your feet!

Any Lunarpages customers who want to switch to DreamHost, we’ll be happy to have you… and we promise to never, never, ever, ever, do anything of this sort, ever! You’re already paying us for hosting.. that should really be enough! (And Lunarpages, if you’re hurting so bad.. just raise prices!)

P.S. Use the promo code LOONEYPAGES when you sign up and get your first year completely free.. it works for current Lunarpages customers only!

About the author

Josh Jones